Image by John Garrison
A rowdy breakfast radio show in Australia is turned upside down when a one-off prank call turns into a real-life, on-air soap opera. Featuring Amber Petty.PLAYLIST
Artist – Title – Album
Palbomen II – Wilco’s Funeral – Memories of Cindy
Secret Circuit – Rogue Unit – Tactile Galactics
Palbomen II – Disappointment Island – Memories of Cindy
Emily Sprague – Huckleberry – Water Memory/Mount Vision
Solvent – A Product Of The Process – Subject To Shift
Tashi Wada with Yoshi Wafa and Friends – Moments of Exile (Coda) – FRKWYS Vol. 14: Nue
Joseph Shabason – Westmeath – Aytche
Solvent – Background Noise (Don’t Become) – Apples & Synthesizers
Solvent – An Introduction to Science – Apples & Synthesizers
Emily Sprague – Piano 1 – Water Memory/Mount Vision
Emily Sprague – Your Pond – Water Memory/Mount Vision
Secret Circuit – Milk – Tactile Galactics
Lucrecia Dalt – Antiform – Anticlines
Emily Sprague – Your Pond – Water Memory/Mount Vision
Kate NV – yxo EAR – для FOR
Emily Sprague – Synth 1 – Water Memory/Mount Vision
Palmbomen II – 145 – Memories of Cindy
Emily Sprague – Synth 2 – Water Memory/Mount Vision
SAFM announcer: Tune into Adelaide’s new look breakfast show, get your daily dose of celebrity interviews, [inaudible] contests, local goss and all the big hits. All. Day. Long. Adelaide’s newest breakfast show, six to nine AM weekdays on 107.1 SAFM.
Sarah: Well, if you’re reading this it means that I’m no longer in pain. I’m in a much better spot, with my family. So, there is no need to be sad, right? I know that it is sad that we won’t chat or share jokes or make each other smile or laugh, well not on this level anymore at least. But look, if you know me and I am assuming that you did because you’re getting this. You know that I will always be in your corner, okay. Like that overly cheesy line, or dumb-ass comment that comes into your head when you’re talking to someone irritating, that’s going to be me. Or that laugh that you hear in your head when you see someone trip and fall flat on their face, that’s going to be me.
Think about me, and I will be there with you. Tell me to bugger off, and I’ll bounce, but I’m always going to come back whenever you need me and please don’t forget to have fun and to laugh at everything. Smile until it hurts and tell everyone around you that you loved them and that you appreciate them. You don’t know what tomorrow holds.
I love you all, from me.
Nick van der Kolk: From Luminary Media, you’re listening to love and radio, I’m Nick van der Kolk. Today’s episode “Gotcha” featuring Amber Petty.
Barry Lam: Tell me what kind of show it was?
Amber Petty: The brekky show?
Flashback Cosi: Just dog food, [inaudible].
Flashback Amber: There’s a good boy, good boy.
Amber: It was very bread and butter.
Clip Hypnotist: This time when I snap my fingers say one, two, three, wide awake. Your name is Candy you’re a gentleman’s dancer.
Amber: Wacky, zany.
Flashback Cosi: Somehow she’s grabbing my ass.
Amber: I mean we would have got the concept from America, no doubt.
Flashback Amber: Oh no he’s going to spew.
Amber: You know we were there to entertain people on their way to work.
Flashback Amber: Who’s tougher men or women?
Flashback Cosi: Women have-
Flashback Amber: Come on or she’s going to crack it [inaudible].
Flashback Cosi: Women are tougher.
Amber: A lot of mums in the cars with kids and us thinking we’re very funny and taking the piss out of each other all the time.
SAFM announcer: Rabbit, Amber and Cosi on 107.1 SAFM.
Barry: Tell me a little bit about Rabbit.
Amber: So Rabbit was obviously my co-host. He had been DJ in Sydney on a fairly big radio station so he was a pretty slick jock. He was a little bit younger than me, bald guy, married, one kid, and took radio very, very seriously. I think it was within about three to six months that Rabbit announced that he had spoken to the boss and that he wanted to do his own gotcha calls.
Flashback: Michelle sends in an email saying her hubby is the most short tempered fiery character she’s every met, in fact sometimes he yells so loud the neighbors can all hear him. The bit that got my attention though, in her email, he hates being told he’s yelling. Okay.
Caller Jeff: Hello.
Flashback: Yeah Hello, Jeff it’s Hugh Adam’s here, calling from the council.
Caller Jeff: Yeah.
Flashback: Mate we’re just calling you regarding some issues with the noise around your house lately, geez that’s the noise there now. We’re asking you if you’d be able to turn your music down.
Caller Jeff: Oh all right, well I’m not home at the moment.
Flashback: No but you are often home obviously.
Caller Jeff: Only on a Saturday.
Flashback: Oh no it’s not only on a Saturday, I mean we’ve had reports.
Caller Jeff: Yeah I know, whatever mate.
Flashback: Can you get the guy to stop making the noise in the background there?
Caller Jeff: No.
Flashback: So you obviously don’t realize when you’re being loud and when you’re not being loud. Because that’s quite loud to me now.
Caller Jeff: Yup.
Flashback: Calm down, all right we need to resolve this and you’re the one that’s causing all the trouble here.
Caller Jeff: No I’m not, I’ve just got whingy neighbors that don’t like to share the house with me, that’s the way I see it.
Flashback: Calm down. See you’re raising your voice at me now.
Caller Jeff: I’m not, you’re just not listening to my point of view, and I’m not yelling.
Flashback: I listen to your point of view but it’s hard to understand when you keep yelling at me. Oh and he hangs up, okay, nearly there with him.
Flashback Amber: Shocking, I love that like within five seconds you’re like calm down.
Amber: I mean he was very good at them and he put the time in.
Caller Rebecca: Hello.
Flashback: Good morning, this is the voice automated system for … is this Rebecca.
Flashback: Hi Shamilla it’s Jason Williams here from the head office.
Flashback: Jason, Shane Wilsmore here, Australian Customs.
Flashback: Yeah it’s Michael Davies here.
Flashback: Beverly it’s Fitzy here calling from Te Hiku O Te Ika FM in Whangarei, New Zealand.
Amber: You know fairly quickly they were very popular.
Caller 4: Hello.
Caller 4: Hello? Hello, who is this?
Amber: Yeah, so basically one morning, Rabbit does his set up to the gotcha call. So, he basically sets it up by saying, you know I was contacted by a local guy called Blaine Armstrong, and he’s in the middle of going through the defacto process with immigration because he’s got a Canadian fiancee, and she’s 26, and they’re both 26, and they’re madly in love. She wants to move to Australia and they want to get married here and he proposed on this very famous beach in South Australia, so he’s asked me to do a gotcha call on his Canadian fiancee, Sarah Robertson.
So, he says, so I decided to pretend I was from Immigration and this is how the call went.
Flashback: Hi Mrs Robertson, this is Colin from the Australian Immigration Department. I have your file right here in front of me. Do you have a moment to go through a few questions in your application?
Sarah: Yes, absolutely.
Amber: And then proceeds to basically ask a series of questions that are, all sound very formal.
Flashback: First up Sarah, how old are you?
Sarah: I am 26 years old.
Flashback: And your occupation?
Sarah: I am a yoga instructor.
Amber: She’s obviously desperately trying to be very polite, because potentially this person on the phone holds a lot of power over how her life kind of goes.
Flashback: And Blaine Armstrong, he’s your fiance, is he not?
Sarah: Yes, he is.
Flashback: And what is Blaine’s occupation?
Sarah: He works in construction.
Flashback: And his favorite color?
Amber: As the call continues, the questions start getting a little more odd.
Flashback: And his favorite food? A, spare ribs. B, pizza or C, is it falafel?
Amber: And uncomfortable, and to the point where.
Flashback: Now on a scale of one to ten, one being the smallest and ten being the largest, how would you rate Blaine’s downstairs area?
Flashback: Ma’am, you know. His genital region.
Amber: And then he goes quiet for a couple of seconds, purposefully leaving her to rot, thinking, oh shit have I completely pissed off this immigration guy, and he’s going to put a big, you know, cross over our files. Anyway, as Rabbit always does, he’s saying.
Flashback: Hey, Sarah.
Sarah: Ahh yes.
Flashback: This is Rabbit from SAFM, and this has been a gotcha call. (laughter)
We got you. Look it was your adorable fiance, Blaine Armstrong he put me up to it.
Sarah: Of course he did. Of course he did. Oh my god, I’m going to kill him.
Barry: So, at the time, did it stand out as any different from the other gotcha calls?
Amber: It stood out because it was the first one that he’d ever done with someone from outside of South Australia. The second thing was, that this girl, Sarah, sounded super cute. Like she just had this voice and you end up painting a picture of what this person might be and I think just this gorgeous, I mean he also said that she was 26, she’s a yoga instructor. The fact that she wanted to pick up her life and was moving to live in South Australia with a very precocial audience, that was important.
We sort of fell in love with this young cute 26 year old.
A couple of months later, I’m in the office with Cosi, my other co-host and our producer came in and said, ‘Rabbit wants to see you back in the studio, he’s got something he wants to record before you guys go home. It’s got something to do with that Canadian girl Sarah.’
We go in to the studio, we sit down. Rabbit’s looking a little serious and he says, ‘you know, you remember Sarah? You know the Canadian Sarah from the gotcha call.’ And we’re like, yeah.
‘As you probably know, you know we became sort of close friends and you know we’re emailing a lot and you know, had a few phone calls since. You know, I kind of met her and she’s shared the news that her and Blaine have been dealing with the news that she’s got stage four beast cancer’.
She was available now and she was going to tell, agreed to tell her story to us, so we could play it on air, and do a bit of a follow up.
Anyway, Rabbit introduced her on air and.
Flashback: So, we just heard the gotcha call where, from back in June I called Sarah over in Canada and told her she wasn’t, that she’s not going to get let in to Australia.
Amber: He sort of leads the story and she’s starts telling how, and when she found out.
Sarah: Well, you know I was going over there with the fiancee visa and.
Amber: And she told us that it was via the immigration process that she had to have, like full medical and health checks and all that sort of stuff.
Sarah: So, I went and got more done and then I got a call from people in Canberra saying, you know, that my health coverage won’t be covered there. It’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and I was like, what’s going on? They’re like, well your breast cancer. And I was like. I went Rabbit that’s not funny. This is not the time for a gotcha call.
Flashback Amber: No, Sarah.
Sarah: I really did think it was him, because everything was going smoothly and perfect and.
Flashback Amber: And you didn’t know that you were sick at all?
Sarah: No. I had an appointment the next day, so I went in and I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.
So, I called Blaine, and he hopped on a plane. I was at the airport 36 hours later and, you know, big hugs, big kiss and one of the reasons I love him is because he’s able to joke around about everything. You know, he just looks at me and says, ‘babe it’s okay, I’m an ass man. We’ll get through this.’
Flashback Amber: Awwwww that’s so gorgeous.
Flashback Cosi: And what’s the long term prognosis for you Sarah?
Flashback Amber: Ummm, I actually just got back the doctors today. Sorry.
Flashback Cosi: You’re right mate.
Flashback Amber: Its okay Sarah.
Sarah: Um, ill be happy to see April.
Amber: I’m just like, oh my god. Like I’m just picturing these two young people, 26, madly in love. This whole kind of like life ahead of them, and now dealing with like, none of that’s going to happen for them.
Sarah: I won’t even be married a year.
Flashback Amber: Oh, Sarah.
Sarah: When they start talking to you about quality of life over quantity of life, its just, you get mad. And you don’t know who to get mad at, and you get mad at your partner, and you get mad at the world, and I’m hopefully going to be there in two weeks.
Amber: But the plan is, she still wants to come to South Australia, and try and still marry him on the special beach, where he proposed.
Sarah: So, we’re hopefully going to have a ceremony among his friends and family in January, and I love him so much, because he could have, he could have bailed.
Flashback Amber: Yeah, he’s.
Sarah: He could have totally bailed and he didn’t. He sucked it up.
Flashback Amber: Yeah, he’s really shown his strength of commitment and what an amazing man. But, obviously you’re both incredibly strong. I’m so glad that you’ve found each other and that there is that love.
Flashback: Sarah and I have been emailing back and forth stacks, and your attitude, the way.
Flashback Amber: Rabbit’s kept us informed along the way, of I guess the friendship that he’s built with you and also about your story and he’s pretty blown away, as are we.
Sarah: It’s hard, but there’s so little time left. You know you just try and live life smile to smile and appreciate what you have. And I hope you guys, when go home and see your family and your friends, you let them know how much you love them, because you never know.
Flashback: Sarah, as a last thing. We’re all looking forward to catching up with you when you get here. I know you get here in a couple of weeks, and you’ve got your wedding in January, and I’m definitely coming along. Although, I have actually got my invitation yet, but, can’t afford invitations.
Sarah: Sad, but yeah.
Flashback: Listen, what we’d like to do, we’d like to give you a thousand dollars, towards helping getting you guys here. You can use it for the wedding, you can use it for anything you like okay?
Sarah: Oh my god. Thank you so much.
Flashback Amber: Oh, you’re welcome.
Flashback: It’s the least we can do.
Flashback Amber: Yeah.
Flashback Cosi: Mate, no dollar amount is going to. The money can help you enjoy the time you have left and we’d love to help you out.
Sarah: Thank you so much.
Flashback: All right Sarah, we’ll let you go. Look forward to catching up with you when you get here, okay?
Sarah: Yup, have a happy birthday Rabbit.
Flashback: Thank you, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Give Blaine our love too.
Sarah: I will, thank you.
Flashback Amber: Lots of love Sarah.
Flashback: Bye bye.
Amber: While Sarah’s story was being run, our phone lines started lighting up.
Caller 5: Hi how are you going guys?
Flashback Amber: Hi Jenny isn’t this heartbreaking?
Caller 5: I am driving along sobbing my heart out.
Caller 6: Hey, how are you doing? I’m exactly in the same boat as Jenny, I’m actually just about to go to work, and I look like I haven’t slept all night. My eyes are so red.
Flashback: Sue’s called in from Teatree Gully, morning Sue.
Caller 7: Hi, how are you guys?
Flashback: All right.
Flashback Amber: Hi Sue.
Caller 7: I’ve been a nurse for a long, long time, so yeah I know it’s a hard road.
Amber: And they’re all wanting to donate money and what can we do?
Caller 8: My husband going to spend a hundred dollars on me for Christmas and I’d like to give it
Flashback Amber: Awwwww.
Caller 9: And I’d just like to donate five hundred dollars, I think..
Flashback Amber: *gasp*
Amber: Little kids were ringing in.
Caller 10: I would like to donate some of my Christmas money if I could.
Flashback Amber: Oh, sweetie.
Caller 10: Yeah.
Caller 11: I’d like to donate a thousand dollars.
Flashback Amber: Oh, Elise. That is so generous.
Caller 11: Well, it’s what goes around comes around, happy.
Flashback: A lot of calls coming in and thank you so much for everyone donating. We will take a couple more of your calls in a second. It’s 8.29, on SAFM, for Amber, Rabbit and Cosi.
Flashback Amber: How are you Sarah? How does it feel listening to all of this? Do you feel like there’s just like, thousands and thousands of arms, that have just put their arms around you and squeezed you?
Sarah: Oh my god yes!
Flashback Amber: Because that’s what’s South Australia’s doing and we can’t wait to meet you Sarah. You’re so amazing.
Amber: And she’s, ahhh, very emotional.
Sarah: This is so overwhelming. I’m, thank you.
Amber: Can’t believe it.
Sarah: Oh my, I can’t. Thank you so much every body. This is unreal, I.
Amber: And then so, at the very end.
Sarah: Ummm, Rabbit?
So, I, as I told you I don’t have any family left and there’s a big moment coming up and my soon to be uncle in law has offered to walk me down the aisle and I said I’d like to ask somebody else first.
I was wondering, since you’re going to be there anyways, if you wouldn’t mind taking a walk with me down the aisle?
Flashback: I’d be proud to Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you.
Flashback Amber: Awww, Sarah, that’s so beautiful.
Wow, okay. Alright, someone’s got to get a grip here.
Flashback: That’s why you handed me the tissues, okay. Thank you.
Flashback Amber: Can I just say, thank you, thank you so much to everyone that called in today and the donations, you know, times are tough, it’s Christmas. That is just unbelievable.
Flashback Cosi: We’ll check in again with you soon Sarah, thank you.
Sarah: Hi Amber. Okay, so, this is my theory about friendship.
Amber: Over the course of the next, sort of, week you know, Sarah continued to email me quite a lot and she was just really like very infectious.
Sarah: Friendship. It’s like a weird thing, you know. It’s like this term.
Amber: I mean I kind of put her up on a bit of a pedestal.
Sarah: That’s thrown around like really carelessly by some people and.
Amber: There was this strength and just kind of way she was looking at her circumstances, that I found pretty endearing and.
Sarah: I guess what I’m trying to say is, that we should never take anyone for granted.
Amber: Here’s someone, who’s 26 and.
Sarah: Let’s appreciate every person and every thing.
Amber: Everything’s being taken away from her and she has this outlook.
Sarah: Just because someone is no longer in your life, for whatever reason that may be, value the time that you had together because I promise that they left an impression on you somehow, and somewhere.
Amber: I was at this apartment that I was renting in Adelaide, really lonely and I remember I was just sitting on the end of my bed talking to Sarah, and I was very uncomfortable. What the hell do you say to someone if you think that they’re dying? You don’t say take care, I mean what are you, you know, there’s a lot of things that you don’t realize, until you’re in that moment, that are not appropriate if you think someone is going to die in the next twenty-four hours.
I was also, trying not to cry and she said, ‘are you okay?’ Because I was trying not to be a blubbering loser, when she’s the one that’s having to be strong and she’s the one that’s you know, apparently going to die. And she called me on that, she could hear it.
My final words with her, and her words with me, were her telling me, ‘you’ll be okay, don’t worry about me, you’ll be okay.’ And that was pretty frigging enormous and felt unbelievably selfless. You know that’s why I ended up calling her angel Sarah, because I just thought, this woman has come in, this young girl has come in to my life to shake me out of my own misery. To make me realize that I have my health. I have my health, I can go on to, to have a love story if I want to. She came in to my world to spotlight everything that I thought that I didn’t have, that I did have and she didn’t.
I have time. She doesn’t have time.
Barry: Hello, is this Cosi?
Cosi: Yeah, g’day mate, how are you going?
Barry: It’s going well, how are you doing?
Cosi: Yeah mate I’ve got you, we’ve got a little bit of a delay going on, but I’ve got you no worries at all.
Barry: Great. Ahh, let me just set up the, my levels on this side. Just a second. Cosi, could you just.
Cosi: Yup, no worries.
Barry: Could you say something to tell me a little bit about the weather over there?
Cosi: Yeah, here in South Australia at the moment, its pretty gloomy and about 20 degrees and kangaroo’s flying around everywhere, Barry, it’s all happening.
Barry: All right, fantastic. I just wanted to know what you remember. Start at the beginning of your memory of this Sarah figure and the gotcha call.
Cosi: Yeah, it was all a little bit bizarre. We were talking to her a lot on air and then, Rabbit in particular was talking to her a lot on air.
The biggest thing for me, was why did this Blaine character disappear, if he was the guy from Adelaide, why was he nowhere to be seen? Yet, we were doing all of this stuff, fundraising, yet why didn’t Blaine come into the studio, or be around? He just dropped off the face of the Earth, and it was all about this Sarah chick. Whereas, you would think that if there was someone in Adelaide and there’s an Adelaide radio station trying to help someone that, you know. That he would be in or involved, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Rabbit was very much in denial of any suggestion that there was anything dodgy about it, but of course, he would be too because is there was, then he would be quite embarrassed. I would understand that he would, still quite embarrassed, that he’d sort of fallen for it. As we all did, I think we all felt pretty stupid.
It just showed how easily you could be tricked.
Barry: So, you were suspicious by that point?
Amber: No, no, no, no, no, no, and ahhh no, no.
Sarah: Well, if you’re reading this, it means that I’m not longer in pain and that I’m in a much better spot, and with my family. So there’s no need to be sad, right?
I know that it is sad that we won’t chat, or share jokes, or make each other smile, or laugh. Well, not on this level, anymore at least, but look, if you know me and I am assuming that you did because you’re getting this, you know that I will always be in your corner. Okay.
Like that overly cheesy line, or dumb ass comment that comes into your head when you’re talking to someone irritating, that’s going to be me. Or that laugh that you hear in your head, when you see someone trip and fall flat on their face, that’s going to be me. Or that song that you just can’t get out of your head, that’s going to be my fault.
Think about me, and I will be there with you. Tell me to bugger off, and I’ll bounce, but I’m always going to come back whenever you need me. And please, don’t forget to have fun and to laugh at everything. Smile until it hurts and tell everyone around that you love them, and that you appreciate them. You don’t know what tomorrow holds.
I love you all. From me.
Mrs Sarah Sassy Armstrong.
Amber: I kept kind of picturing her spirit shooting up to whenever it is you go and it was almost like I wanted to go with her.
Now I was just left down here on my own, you know, back in my dark place. It’s actually making me really emotional thinking about it now. Yeah, there was something about that moment that just made me feel like, I was now alone again, you know?
In the week before Sarah dies, she had sent an email to me, introducing me via email, looped in, to her best friend Sara Kelly.
Sara Kelly: Hello Amber, the memorial was pleasantly chaotic today. Loads of people coming through the door. Lots of wonderful memories being shared. Loads of laughter. Never seen my boys cry like that before. Sarah was the closest thing they had to a sister, or a female influence that wasn’t me. It was eye opening to see my little men be men, with their emotions. Very proud of them.
I know you don’t know me, but if you feel like venting in an email, I can read like nobodies business. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger. I’m here if you need it.
All the best, Sara.
Amber: Sara was a very successful writer.
Sara: I started out in morning drive radio in New Finland.
Amber: So, she knew a lot about media. She knew a lot about the kind of high jinks of radio.
Sara: Now I write for a few TV sitcoms out here in Canada. Coroner Gas, Twenty Two Minutes and a little talk show called, The Hour.
Amber: We kind of then started this, another email friendship.
Sara: Hey Amber, it’s 11 am here in Toronto. Everyone is fairly hungover, with the exception of my kids who have been exiled to the backyard for tobogganing.
Amber: She had three sons five to thirteen or something.
Sara: I forgot. Hangovers plus children equals ow.
Amber: The husband was in the army in Afghanistan and blah blah. So she had a very busy life.
Sara: I don’t know when I’ll be able to process what happened with Sarah. I don’t imagine it will be until my husband gets home. Then I’ll take the time for myself. Until then its family, work, guess, pets, household and the odd bottle of Jack D. Lol.
Amber: You know, we had good banter, I felt that she was not judging. You know, I would share what was going on in my life or even if I was just joking saying, oh yeah I’m having a great Friday night, I’ve got a bottle of wine, and I’ll be calling a friend in Sydney. You know, I felt like we had this very easy kind of no bullshit, you know, chemistry.
But she had sent me an email, sort of halfway through that period and the subject said.
Sara: I hope you don’t mind, but you’ve been the subject of a bet.
So, I work with a beautiful man named Corey, see photos attached.
Amber: Oh wow, he’s pretty cute actually.
Sara: He may have been privy to a few photos of you and I think he’s developed a little online crush.
Amber: No, he’s really, he’s definitely cute.
Sara: Okay, so here’s what happened. This morning we had one of our typically mature contests, where we agreed to both try to make it across the writers room with a glass of water on our heads.
I did say mature, right?
The deal was, if I made it across without drenching myself, my dear friend would have to be my slave for a week. If he made it across I was required to facilitate an email introduction between the two of you.
Sara: Are you ready to kill me?
Amber: This is funny, this is fun.
Sara: Anyway, the fact that my mascara is now slightly running, may suggest to you that it was I who lost. Would you be okay if I did the intro to get the kid off my back?
Amber: And so, that kicked off this flirtatious sort of, email relationship with this Corey guy.
Corey: My fairest Amber, how are you? How’s everything been? Fill me in on all things Amber. How’s work? How are things with you and your co-hosts?
Amber: He was sweet, he was old-fashioned. He was funny, he was interesting. He was obviously very talented, very ambitious. He eventually left the show that they were working on, and he became a part-time radio host at Z100 in New York, while juggling being a junior writer on Saturday Night Live.
Corey: My sister’s back and Mom is in town. We bought her a Vespa, so she’s scooting around the Big Apple on it.
Oh, and I got a tattoo. I’ve attached pics of the tattoo and me and Mom on her hardcore bike. No laughing. Oh, and the tattoo says, music saved my life. That’s a story for you and I, in person, over wine, in front of my fireplace.
Amber: But, I never spoke to him on the phone. You know, he wanted the first time that we spoke to be face to face.
Okay, maybe that’s a really old-fashioned kind of thing and, you know, I didn’t care that much, I was fine to go with that.
Corey: It’s about 3.30 am here, I’m going to shut the laptop and pass out. Good night sweet Amber. My online girlfriend.
Amber: He also sent me flowers on my birthday. Which really cheered me up actually. They came at a great time, because I was having a meltdown, because I turning 38, I didn’t have a boyfriend. I was running out of time to having a baby. I felt like shit. My radio station wanted me to do a nude shoot with a whole lot of other women, and I was pretty much thinking, well this is a fairly shit place to arrive at 38. I remember I was like literally sitting at my desk, crying, trying not to let everyone know I was actually crying into my keyboard. And then suddenly there was a knock on the door and there was flowers. From dear Corey. So that cheered me up.
Sara: Dear Amber, so I’m a hundred percent coming to Australia. I was thinking, end of June start of July. How’s that fit with you?
I’ll be bringing some of Sarah’s ashes with me when I come visit. I have a feeling that the Armstrong family won’t be up for a ceremony, but I know she wanted her ashes in as many oceans as we could find.
Amber: And I said, come and stay with me, and I’ll be in a survey break when you arrive, so I’m going to Perth and if you want to tag along blah blah blah.
Sara: I cannot wait to meet you and share stories and just laugh.
I haven’t had a kids free vacation in over a decade. So, yeah I’d to trade lives with you for a little bit.
I look forward to it.
Amber: The day that she’s there to arrive, I jump in my little Mazda two and I’ve got my little dog Marley in the back. And drive round and sit out the front of Adelaide airport, and I kind of see this person coming through that I’m like, I think this is her. She was a very tall girl, very solid and she had the biggest suitcase, I’ve literally ever seen in my entire life. And of course, I just jump out of the car and I’m madly waving, trying to make her feel kind of comfortable and she comes closer to the car, and she was definitely very reserved. She wasn’t saying a lot and I was probably saying, you know over compensating, because it’s just a really awkward moment.
I think that was the first indication that she was very different to who I’d got to know, supposedly in these emails and on the phone. Very different.
The only thing that she seemed to warm to was my dog, Marley. She picked him up at some point, and her boobs were so big, that she sat him on top of her boobs and just tucked him into her tshirt and was just like, look no hands, kind of thing.
But I could not get her to warm to me. There was this energy about her that made me feel like I was kind of a dickhead. And she was only ever really happy when someone was kind of asking her about being Canadian.
So, Sarah’s ashes. The big ceremony at the beach. A bunch of people that were close to Sarah, had different parts of Sarah’s ashes and they were spreading them at different parts around the world that meant something to Sarah.
So, Sara had a little glad wrap bag, with some of Sarah’s ashes, and we had talked about, we would have a little spreading the ashes ceremony down at Glenelg beach. Which is where Blaine proposed to Sarah.
I finish work, went home, got my dog Marley, picked her up and I thought I’ll park somewhere where we can do a nice walk. Its such a really beautiful beach, you know really try, and sort of create the atmosphere for something that’s so special and I knew would be a very heavy hearted event for Sara.
Anyway, we get to the beach, we have our walk. Tie my little dog up under a tree, it was a really, really hot day. And then suddenly she just marches very directly and swiftly off towards the beach, while I’m just standing there. I’m like, okay, I wonder does she want me to come with her? You know, so I sort walk slowly behind. She then enters the water, she goes up to about her knees and then suddenly, I can see she’s got her back to me, but I can see that she’s obviously undoing the bag and she’s just, you know, emptying the contents. And I’m thinking, Jesus, wow. Am I like the chauffer, like what the hell happened? I thought we were doing this together, and out of, literally out of nowhere it was the stillest day. Out of nowhere this gust of wind picks up just around Sara and picks up some Sarah’s ashes and ends up depositing them all over Sara’s skirt.
And I’m just going, oh my god, like this is. I mean, shit, like I. Oh my god, like is this. Am I supposed to laugh or is this the worst thing and I’m thinking, I was too scared to laugh, because I thought, if she’s already a face like thunder, what’s she going to do now that she’s wearing her best friend? So, she just literally brushed down her skirt, the rest of Sarah was on her arm. Put her arm in the water, washed it off, marched back out and did not say a word to me. Nothing. And that was it.
That was the big farewell.
Barry: Wow. That’s kind of like that scene in the Big Lebowski.
Amber: It is.
Barry: That’s what its like.
Amber: I mean it’s, I mean you just. What do you say? What do you say?
So, I’ve been in total anger. Where that shifted into suspicion, was the first that I got back from my holidays. Cosi was very interested to find out how the holiday had gone, and he thought it was very funny, because he couldn’t understand. He’d said to me a few times, you know, does the fact that she’s a total stranger and you’ve never met her before, does that kind of weigh into any of your kind of hesitations about having her stay in your house?
I’m like shut up Cosi, you know, she’s Sarah’s best friend. It’s not that big a deal and I don’t want to admit that Cosi’s right. That yeah, no, it was a total disaster. He’s laughing and I just, yeah, she was just a real bitch. She just treated me like shit.
Anyway, about an hour later into the show, and we were in an Ad break.
Cosi: Yeah, there was a real defining moment. We were sitting in the office.
Amber: Cosi was sort of looking a little like he was thinking about something and.
Cosi: It was then that some things weren’t matching up and that’s when I said.
Amber: So, Petty. What would you do, if you found out Sara was actually Sarah? Which means that Corey doesn’t exist. None of them exist. What would you do if you found that out?
Cosi: And then, from there, everything just like made no sense.
Amber: And I just kind of looked at him, and I was immediately pissed off because I thought, don’t even, there’s an amazing girl. Forget the bitch that came to stay with me that happens to be her best friend. There’s an amazing girl here that Rabbit and I became very, very close to, that has died, and by you saying anything, you’re implicating like her being part of something weird.
And I looked at Rabbit, because I wanted to see if he looked pissed off as well, and he was just staring down at his little nobs and buttons and whatever. And then he kind of looked up at the clock and he said, ‘ten seconds til mics on’. And then just suddenly, it was like this bomb went off inside me, but this slow kind of bomb. The smoke was just slowly making its way up through my body. Where I’m like, oh my god. Why is what he just said to me, making me feel so weird?
Barry: So tell me about the investigation. How does it begin?
Amber: The excavating of all of this stuff is happening over the course of three months.
Was absolutely sure that somehow I would find a huge clue, if I could direct my focus and investigation around Corey.
So, I sat in front of my computer, and I went okay Corey, where are you? I went through his emails again, I looked at his photos. Any clues. Went through all of her emails, going any clues. Going into Google images and Corey, radio, Canada, you know, just that kind of thing.
And then, suddenly I find his photo. And I’m like, oh my God. His name was Corey. Different surname, had worked in radio, was the guy in the photos. I sit there and I look at his Facebook profile, and I think, are you part of this scam?
Barry: Was this, this guys real name?
Amber: This guys real name is Corey Kimm.
Barry: And you’ve been talking to?
Amber: And I’ve been talking to Corey Malcolmson.
Barry: Okay. So, Corey why don’t you start by introducing yourself. Telling everybody who you are.
Corey Kimm: My name is Corey Kimm, I’m a radio DJ in Canada. What I do is I talk into the microphone and I play peoples favorite songs and I envision them dancing in the kitchen having a good time when they hear them.
Barry: Okay. Now, tell me what you remember about meeting Amber Petty online that day or night.
Corey: She sent me a message, asking me if I knew a certain person by the name of Sarah and.
Amber: And he basically says, oh.
Corey: Yeah, it was a common person. I have heard of her, I have seen her before.
Amber: Yes, I’ve met this girl before.
Corey: She had blonde hair, about down to her shoulders. She was a little overweight. Always had a big smile on and seemed very jolly. Seemed very happy.
Amber: She was a friend of a girl that died of cancer. Similar story.
Barry: And this was a person that was present at the station and like, knew other people and so on?
Corey: Absolutely. She was real, there’s no Mister Snufalufagus. She would come in, she knew other people. Other people knew who she was, so, yeah it was legit.
Amber: And I just remember pushing away from my computer desk and just sitting there.
Corey: She was a friend of another radio host, and she would just pop in every once and a while, and she would say stuff. She was writing for Saturday Night Live, she was on of the writers there and she would just come in periodically and, all I remember is the other people in the building being in awe of her. Of how accomplished she was, and what she’s done. She really was good at making everyone feel like she was obviously something that she wasn’t. So, there was something that she was able to do, to make people look at her and be in awe.
Amber: He basically then said, hang on, let me go and talk to this guy that I used to work with on radio, because he became close to the girl.
Corey: Yeah, I remember I tried to reach out to another person that knew Sarah.
Amber: So, he’s gone back to this guy and basically said, I’ve got this chick in Australia, she’s a radio girl, they’ve had some scam happen to them and there’s this best friend, and there’s this girl that died of cancer. And this is what she looked like, and he’s apparently written back to Corey, and just said, oh my god I’ve gone white as a ghost. Yes, you can confirm her, that the same thing happened to me, but I don’t want to talk about it.
Corey: That was the dead end. He didn’t really want much to do with it. Maybe he got taken as well and, I think you know, any time any of us get conned, or tricked, the last thing we want to do is kind of, relive that moment, and go through that again. So, we tried. Yeah, we absolutely gave it a try.
Barry: So, you know that she had run this scam once, other.
Amber: Yeah. I know at least once.
Barry: At least once other?
Barry: That’s what you know of.
Amber: But, I really, really, really do suspect that she will have scammed other people in some other way. She knows entertainment, she knows media. I feel like there’s a part of her that’s so angry, that she feels that she should be in these roles.
Barry: So, was it about getting on the air and getting connected with media people?
Amber: It was being inside their world. Being made to feel really important by them, and sadistically being able to look at them and go, well you’re a bunch of fuckwits. You’re a bunch of dickheads, you know? I got one over you. You think you’re all so smart, but I got one over you.
On the other side, I think its, yeah, this actual real desire to be loved and be part of that world, and be, you know, loved by the radio guy, the media guy.
Barry: So, you don’t think it’s about the money? You don’t think it’s the 12 thousand dollars?
Amber: No. Nope. It’s definitely not about the money. I mean this is what’s astounding. She booked a trip, obviously said goodbye to her loved ones in Canada, her best mates, comes to Australia. Comes into the radio network, meets the people, stays with me. If you were going to pull something like that off, and it was just about money, you’re not going to, you’ve got the money. You’ve got the money.
Corey. This Corey and I end up, in a very constant, quite excitable conversation. And very quickly he wanted to have a phone call and just to prove to me that he had a voice. And to be honest, in a way, I started to go, okay well maybe all of this bizarre stuff has happened to me, to in the strangest way ever to lead me to, you know. This guy.
Barry: Yeah, yeah tell me what happens with that?
Amber: So, oh my god!
So, what happens with that is, we start kind of going, well let’s not worry about distance being in the way here. We’re both kind of crazy. So, over the next couple of weeks, we started planning for me to go over there and for us to have our first meeting. It just unleashed this craziness, and I thought, oh my god here we go, I’ve actually. I’ve actually, through this shit fight of a situation, have ended up falling in love. And so of course I thought, well look how smart I am.
Barry: And what happened? Come on, I mean this is the actual story. This is the amazing part of the story actually.
Amber: And. Well, yeah I just remember flying into Edmonton, and I had Katie Tunstall, Suddenly I See, blaring over and over in ears, because I’m just trying to undo my kind of like fear. I remember just looking out the window and it was just white. I’ve just arrived in the middle of a snow field, like what is actually going on here? And I walked nervously out from the gate and just saw his Mum, Corey and his Mum standing there with this huge bunch of flowers and waving frantically. And you know, big embrace and anyway, it was just the most beautiful week.
It felt so normal and so, not bizarre. Like the story that was attached to how we came to know each other.
Barry: Sounds like a wholesome guy, actually.
Amber: He’s super wholesome. Like super, super, super wholesome. In fact so wholesome that there was places that we would go, he liked to go to the mall a lot, which I’m like, I thought that was just in movies that everyone in America and Canada likes to go to the mall. But we went to the mall a lot and we went to Starbucks and these sort of place and I’m like, okay right. He was very wholesome, and adorable, and fun. Yeah it was amazing.
And we were just, we like madly in love.
That didn’t end up working out. Which was pretty heart breaking too, because I just thought, oh god now what is this story? Now this is just back to being a really shit story, where I look like a dickhead and you know like, I’ve still got egg on my face. Where’s the bouquet? Anyway, so that wasn’t good and it intensified my kind of anxiety and bad self esteem at the time.
But, you know now that I look back and I’m in a much happier place, I’m like, no Corey and I were never going to work.
When I found her on Facebook, I mean it only added to my outrage, because I thought, who the hell are you to just be sitting there? Never been brought to justice. Got away with all sorts of atrocities, and there you are, just sitting there.
Barry: Cosi, if I sent you a picture, do you think you’d be able to recognize if it was this Sarah, that you had seen?
Cosi: Yeah, I’m pretty confident I would, yeah. Yup.
Barry: I’m sending a link to your email right now.
Cosi: Let’s see. Oh yeah, I would say that’s like 99.9 per cent her.
Barry: Okay. So you’re pretty sure? Like the tattoo’s and things, is that familiar?
Cosi: Yup. In fact, I just scrolled down, I see the tattoo’s and that, yeah I’d say 100 per cent her, yup.
Barry: Okay. So I just sent you an email with a link.
Corey: Okay, there we go.
Barry: And if you scroll down this page you should be able to see, like a bigger picture.
Corey: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah absolutely that’s her, yup.
Barry: All right, thank you Corey that really, really helps. Thank you so much for doing this, this morning.
Amber: About a year ago I sent her a message, oh well hello Sarah and how is everything in your world? It was a real, like short and sarcastic like, I found you. Gotcha.
And I didn’t get anything and I’ve been blocked.
Barry: If she ever responded, what do you think you would say?
Amber: All I can think is, how dare you?
I mean, you know. And I’m not going to feel ashamed that in the end I would love to hear a good reason why she caused so much pain and so much destruction. I would like it to marry with perhaps, she’s had her own, and that doesn’t make it right, but I would like to see her truly vulnerable.
And I would like control of getting the answers to the real story, not the bullshit. But if it was a short text, it would be, how dare you?
Barry: Can I read you the exchange that I had with her?
So, I have it on Facebook, here. So, this is what I said.
I heard a story about how some morning radio DJ’s in Australia and Canada got pranked by either you or someone else named Sarah about 10 or 12 years ago. I thought it made a good story for love and radio. They’re interested if you’re willing to tell the story?
Sarah: Hi. I think you have the wrong person.
I would think the person in that story was very sick.
They probably have gone through a lot of therapy, to get past this, and is finding it hard to even try to think back and has probably blocked a lot of it out.
Nick: That’s it for Love + Radio. On this episode you heard the voices of Amber Petty, Corey Kimm, and Cosi Costello. Rabbit declined to be interviewed for this story. This episode was produced by Barry Lam, who also happens to produce an excellent philosophy podcast for Slate, called Hi-Phi Nation. Find it wherever you get your podcasts.
Amber Petty is currently working on a book about her experiences, also including her time on Celebrity Survivor Australia, and being in the Danish Royal Wedding. You know, just your standard stuff. We’ll have a link to her work up on our website, loveandradio.org.
Angel Sarah’s voice was provided by Robin Luckwaldt-Ross. Sara’s voice by Leah Pravani, and fake Corey’s voice by Orlando McCardie. Corey Laten provided the voice of Rabbit on our recreation of Sarah’s first gotcha call, which we weren’t able to get a copy of. The rest of the breakfast show recordings appeared courtesy SAFM in Adelaide.
Special thanks also to Diane Wu and Ira Glass.
Love and radio is produced by Steven Jackson and Julia Dewitt. Our managing producer is Phil Dmochowski.
We are a production of Luminary Media.
Thanks for listening.
Barry: As far as I know, she hasn’t blocked Nick yet. Yet.
Amber: And that’s interesting in itself. And Nick needs to know, that there’s every chance that Sarah is now desperately in love and plotting and scheming something to do with him. Because she loves a radio host.
Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello
Robin Luckwaldt-Ross, as Sarah Robertson
Aliya Pabani, as Sara Kelly
Corey Layton, as Rabbit
Nick van der Kolk, Host and Director
Barry Lam, Producer
Steven Jackson, Producer and Editor
Julia DeWitt, Producer
Phil Dmochowski, Managing Producer